Universities must go beyond grades in admissions

Mr Tan Chin Hwee was right when he said that our students need resilience and curiosity to succeed in the future ("Go beyond book-smarts, to resilience and curiosity"; Jan 31).

Digital technologies are rapidly transforming both business practices and societies, and they are integral to the innovation-driven economies of the future.

The gap between technology and human development will continue to widen, with exponential improvements in artificial intelligence, robotics and digitisation.

In fact, companies that are adapting to a digital world are generally becoming much more profitable than their industry peers.

The most successful business people are those who excel in cognitive ability and social skills.

They have a growth mindset, see failure as a way to grow and, therefore, embrace challenges, persevere against setbacks, learn from criticism and attain higher levels of achievement.

Hence, our universities need to be more selective in their choice of students and look beyond exam grades.

At Yale University, the admission panel looks at character, personality and ambition.

Besides their high school transcripts, applicants also need to submit two essays which will be used to get a sense of who they are.

Meanwhile, Stanford University reviews each application holistically.

It does not demand a minimum grade point average, but looks for applicants with the potential to succeed. It looks for commitment, dedication and genuine interest in expanding one's intellectual horizon.

It also takes the applicant's family background, and employment and life experiences into account.

Our universities would do well to follow suit.

Heng Cho Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Universities must go beyond grades in admissions'. Print Edition | Subscribe